Pain-Free Sewing: Posture is the Key
My name is HollyAnne Knight, and it is my job to guide you to quilt with confidence. I am a twenty-something wife and mama of two little boys. We love books, home cooking, romping outside, and anything that requires creativity and imagination. I made my first quilt because my mama had a pile of special tshirts that she wanted transformed into a warm, useful, loved quilt. That first tshirt quilt quickly became a love of all things quilting. Quilting has been a happy place as we had our boys just 14 months apart, as I battled post-partum depression, and as we’ve weathered all the ups and downs of life. Today, the purpose of my company, String & Story is to educate and inspire women to be the Quilting Rockstars I KNOW they can be.
In addition to owning String & Story, I am also President and Chair of the Board for a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) organization called Quilts for Cure. We raise awareness about childhood cancer and send quilts to kids in treatment. 16,000 children per year are diagnosed with cancer in the US each year-- a school bus full of kids each day. In spite of this, pediatric cancer research is shockingly underfunded (a mere 3.9% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget each year is dedicated to researching and developing new treatments for childhood cancer). While these kids are fighting for their lives, they are in hospitals often far from home where the gift of a quilt brings both physical and emotional warmth.
Some themes of all my work are encouragement, education, and joy, and today is no exception. First, I want you to know that quilting should not be physically painful. It is quite rigorous, yes, but you should not be sore or uncomfortable during or after sewing. In order to prevent pain, especially sore necks and shoulders, I want to teach you today about posture while you are sewing. I hope it will bring relief and renewed joy to your creative work!
A few weeks ago, Nicole from LillyElla shared with us that a 50 year old needs ten times as much light as a child, and an 80 year old needs thirty times as much light. Here’s another relevant tidbit: Every 10 degrees of cervical flexion adds 10 pounds to the weight of your head. In plain English, that means that leaning your head forward 50 degrees (about what we do when we look down at our sewing machines, books, or smart phones) makes your neck carry 50 extra pounds of strain because our brains are already heavy and then we’re adding all that gravity. Spoiler alert: That kind of strain is really bad for our necks! It causes chronic pain and tension that increases things like headaches, anxiety, fatigue, lack of focus, etc. So what do we do??
On both domestic and long arm machines, it is critical to start with good posture (correct posture shown on the left above; poor posture is shown on the right). Make sure your shoulders are over your hips so that your back is straight. Also make sure that your shoulders are down and back—relaxed rather than holding any anxiety or tension. Above all, be sure that your head is over your neck rather than extended forward toward your work. In addition, make sure your sewing space is full of quality light so that your eyes can do the work of seeing without strain, sparing your body the pain of poor posture.
Having proper light in my work area makes it much easier to maintain my posture while I work. Daylight lamps have been a total game changer in my sewing space. When working on my domestic machine, my Slimline lamp guarantees I have enough light under my needle for both piecing and quilting. On the longarm, the Quilta lamp shows me where I am stitching now, and the Luminos lights all of the quilt so I can see where I’ve been and where I am going. With this small arsenal of Daylight lamps, I no longer squint and strain when I’m sewing. I’m too busy smiling at all the stitches and colors I can see clear as day!
As I mentioned at the top, it’s my job to guide you to quilt with confidence, and I would like to invite you to join me for Intro to Free Motion Quilting, my free online workshop. In fact, you can register today at www.stringandstory.com/introtofmqworkshop I can’t wait to help you begin your journey to being a quilting rockstar!
Happy Quilting, my friends!